Stab Magazine | This Filmer's "Throwaway" Clip Is The Best Moment In John John Florence's 'Space'
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This Filmer’s “Throwaway” Clip Is The Best Moment In John John Florence’s ‘Space’

A historic moment in surf cinematography deemed “unusable” by Australia’s Chris Bryan. We ask Chris: “How?”

news // Sep 15, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Most of us are still coming back to Planet Earth after what we saw three days ago.

You know, Space. 

For those unaware, John John Florence recently dropped his new six-minute film, Space, for the whole world to enjoy.

The short, which was filmed by Erik Knutson and Chris Bryan and edited by Blake Keuny, was visually, auditorily, and spiritually astounding. It was awarded a Vimeo Staff Pick within minutes of being posted and has since been by watched hundreds of thousands. 

I myself have viewed it no less than eight times. 

And while the entire film is remarkable, there’s one moment that makes it, arguably, the greatest short surfing film in history. Go ahead and see for yourself. 

Note: this clip loses a certain amount of impact when stripped from the context of the film, so we recommend you watch Space in its entirety to properly appreciate this moment. But if you are the impatient type just click below. 

And just…. wow, right? Could you believe that John John was steering his way through that foamy pit, jumping over explosions, fighting for his life?

When the music drops and John’s black-railed steed breaks through the glass, it’s goosebumps every time. Never has a piece of surf cinematography moved me, or many other surf fans, like this.

So naturally I had to chat with the man behind the lens, Western Australia’s Chris Bryan, to hear his first-hand account and congratulate him on capturing (perhaps) the best singular moment in the history of our sport.

To my surprise, Chris did not feel this way at all.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/183462793

More of Chris’ work.

Stab: Chris! What an incredible little film, that Space. Truly moving. So, was it you who did all of the water stuff?
Chris Bryan: Not all of it, no. I just did the Phantom stuff in WA when John was over here. 

Which means you were responsible for what is one of, if not the most incredible piece of surf cinematography ever. Being that crazy chandelier wave, of course.
[Laughs] Yeah well it’s crazy because… I’m working on my own personal project right now, just like a best-of sorta thing from the last couple years, and all those shots in Space are ones I’d never use in my own edit.

[Nervous laugh] Wait, did you say you would never use that?
No… I mean, yeah, I wouldn’t use that in my own piece. …I mean I liked his surfing and everything but it was just sort of um… not to say it’s a scrap but, I’m trying to have this surf edit that I put out be the best of the best, and that shot wouldn’t… I just feel like I have better stuff. 

Really?
Yeah, much better. 

Everybody I’ve talked to has been awestruck by that moment, and of course that’s related to how masterfully it was put together with the music and everything, but just the dynamic nature of the shot itself – how high his noses pierces through the wave, the black rails cutting through the whitewater – to me it was just… surreal. I got chills.
Yeah that was just out at The Box, and some of the waves out there go tight at the start, and what he did is he took off behind the peak and kinda backdoored it, and it kinda chandeliered and then he pushed through the foamball and the bottom dropped out. So yeah it was a bit of a unique wave and people are probably shocked because a lot of guys probably would have fallen off on such a tight section.

But it sounds like you don’t really rate it… Sorry, I’m just still trying to get my head around that!
Yeah like I rate his riding for sure – everything he does is incredible – but for me the clip, just, yeah, I don’t really rate the shot all that much.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/24262272

He really is talented.

That’s incredible. But I mean it’s art, right? Beauty in the eye of the beholder and whatnot.
For me, if I get a passby shot where the guy slides his fingers across the lens, or somebody does a giant air right onto my head, that’s what I get excited about. Whereas with this clip, for me, personally, I didn’t feel like it was a great shot on my part.

I think I’m starting to understand. This clip lacked the natural beauty aesthetic, with crystal clear water, perfect positioning and all that.
Yeah, and obviously the surfer has to have the talent, but what makes a perfect shot is the collaboration of filmmaker and a surfer, both of whom have to be in the right spot at the right time in perfect unison. It’s quite rare for that to happen in the ocean.   

Yeah that makes total sense! I guess just from my perspective – as someone who ingests a ton of surf media – this was such a novel type of wave, and the way it was produced in the clip just left me extremely surprised, whereas with these beautiful clips you’re talking about, with the perfect barrel or massive air, I totally appreciate them too, but I’ve also seen them many times before. This felt like uncharted territory.
Yeah, gotcha. And it’s a combination of things, like it’s filmed on the Phantom camera, which a lot of people don’t have, and I make sure to limit my posting, so there’s a unique look there. But yeah, thank you!

No worries, and fell free to send us all of your B clips from here on out – they will be appreciated! Speaking of, when does this super mega highlight reel get dropped?
Well, I’m still shooting so not sure when I’ll release it, but I have an edit called Mocean narrated by David Attenborough which is all just ocean and waves [no surfers] that I’m putting out some time in the next couple of weeks.

Unreal. Looking forward to it. 

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